Devon Wildlife Trust The Silver Y is a medium-sized moth that can be seen on warm days throughout the year, although it is most common during the late summer. At times, this migrant may be a very common visitor, especially in flowery grasslands, sand dunes and gardens. It can often be seen flying during the daytime, feeding on nectar from plants, such as Buddleia and Lavender, but also flies at night. The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants, including Stinging nettles, clover and cabbages. It breeds here, but the early stages cannot survive our winter.

How to identify

When at rest, the Silver Y holds its wings back along its body in a tent-like shape. The wings are patterned with dark grey, silver and brown, and display a characteristic, silver, Y-shaped mark on the forewings. 

Devon Wildlife Trust A giant of the sea turtle world, leatherback turtles are ocean wanderers searching the seas for jellyfish. Unlike other sea turtles, leatherback turtles don’t mind the cold! This means they can dive to great depths where the water is a lot colder to get first pick of all the deep sea jellyfish.

This giant of the sea turtle world travels alone, only coming together with other turtles to breed. They lay their eggs on beaches and leave them unsupervised, leaving the baby turtles to make their way to the sea alone once they hatch. These unique animals are specially adapted to be able to cope with colder seas, which means they are able to dive to great depths in order to hunt deep sea jellyfish. They have an incredible (and slightly gruesome) way of making sure they never lose a meal – they have downward facing spines inside their throat that stops prey getting out! Unfortunately, the leatherback turtle can get confused and accidentally eat plastic bags or balloons as they look like jellyfish. These plastic items then get stuck in their throats and can cause serious health problems for the turtle.

How to Identify

A large black turtle with white dots all over the body, flippers and head. They have a lighter underbelly with a pink colouration on the underthroat and chin. Their front flippers can reach 2.5m. Other sea turtle species rarely visit UK waters, but are distinct from leatherbacks as they have a hard shell and are green/brown in colour. Leatherbacks lack a hard shell and have leathery skin covering their backs. 

Devon Wildlife Trust Our only venomous snake, the shy adder can be spotted basking in the sunshine in woodland glades and on heathlands. An adder bite is a very rare occurrence, and can be painful, but is almost never fatal.

The adder is a relatively small, stocky snake that prefers woodland, heathland and moorland habitats. It hunts lizards and small mammals, as well as ground-nesting birds, such as skylark and meadow pipit. In spring, male adders perform a 'dance' during which they duel to fend off competition to mate. Females incubate the eggs internally, 'giving birth' to three to twenty live young. Adders hibernate from October, emerging in the first warm days of March, which is the easiest time of year to find them basking on a log or under a warm rock.

How to Identify

The adder is a greyish snake, with a dark and very distinct zig-zag pattern down its back, and a red eye. Males tend to be more silvery-grey in colour, while females are more light or reddish-brown. Black (melanistic) forms are sometimes spotted. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The red admiral is an unmistakeable garden visitor. This black-and-red beauty may be seen feeding on flowers on warm days all year-round. Adults are mostly migrants, but some do hibernate here. A fairly large black, white and red butterfly, the red admiral is an impressive visitor to our gardens where it can be spotted feeding on buddleia and other flowers. It will also frequent all kinds of other habitats, from seashores to mountains! Adults sometimes hibernate, and may be seen flying on warm days throughout the year, although they are most common in the summer and early autumn. The caterpillars feed on common nettles.

How to identify

The red admiral is mainly black, with broad, red stripes on the hindwings and forewings, and white spots near the tips of the forewings. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The large skipper is a small, orange butterfly, similar to the small skipper. Adults fly between June and August, when they can often be seen resting in sunny positions and long grass, or feeding on flowers such as bramble. Large skippers can be found on rough grassland and sand dunes, along roadside verges and woodland edges, in large gardens, or anywhere else with plenty of grasses. They lay their eggs on grass blades. Foodplants of the caterpillars include cock's-foot, purple moor-grass and false broom.

How to identify

The large skipper has russet-brown wings edged with large, dark brown patches and dotted with small, light orange patches. This pattern helps distinguish them from the small and Essex skippers. Males have a small black stripe in the middle of their forewings.

Devon Wildlife Trust The comma is a medium-sized orange-and-brown butterfly. It gets its name from the comma-shaped white spots on the underneath of its wings. It is on the wing throughout the year, having several broods and overwintering as an adult. It is a common and widespread butterfly of woodland edges, particularly during the spring and autumn. The caterpillars feed on common nettles, elms and willows.

They have brown and white flecks that make them look like bird-droppings and help to camouflage them.

How to identify

The comma is unmistakeable: ragged, orange wings with brown spots distinguish it from similar species. Its underside has cryptic brown colouring, making it look like a dead leaf.

Devon Wildlife Trust The dazzling silver-studded blue is a rare butterfly of heathland habitats, mainly in southern England. It has undergone severe population declines in recent years. The silver-studded blue emerges in June and is usually on the wing until late August. It is a rare butterfly, generally found in heathland habitats that have shorter, sparsely vegetated areas. It is restricted to close-knit colonies in southern England and Wales. Two subspecies can be found in its range, while two others are now extinct in the UK. The larvae feed on a wide variety of plants, such as Bell Heather, Cross-leaved Heath and gorses.

How to identify

The silver-studded blue is a small butterfly which gets its name from the light blue reflective 'studs' (scales) found on the underside of the wings. The upper wings are blue with a dark outer rim. Males are bluer than females, which are more of a dull brown. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The medium-sized meadow brown is one of the commonest grassland butterflies, on the wing in the summer, from June to September. It also occurs in parks, gardens and cemeteries. It even flies in dull weather when other butterflies are inactive. Adults can be seen in large numbers, flying low over the grass and flowers. Caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses such as fescues, bents and meadow-grasses.

How to identify

The meadow brown is mainly brown with washed-out orange patches on the forewings. The best way to identify the 'brown' butterflies is by looking at the eyespots on their wings. The combination of its relatively large size, orange patches on the forewings only, one eyespot on the forewing and none at all on the hindwings, is unique to the meadow brown. The meadow brown also has only one small white 'pupil' in the eyespots, instead of two like the gatekeeper.

Devon Wildlife Trust A strikingly beautiful, red butterfly, so-named for the large blue and yellow 'eyes' on each upperwing that bare a marked resemblance to the tail feathers of a peacock. It is on the wing throughout the year, having a single brood, and overwinters as an adult. A very common butterfly, the peacock is a regular visitor to our gardens where it feeds on buddleia and other flowers. It ranges far, however, and can also be found in the shelter of woodland rides and clearings. The caterpillars feed on common nettles.

How to identify

Perhaps our most familiar butterfly, the peacock is deep-red with black spots and blue 'eyespots' on both the forewings and hindwings. Its underside is dark brown, making the wings look like dead leaves.

Devon Wildlife Trust The Beautiful demoiselle is a large damselfly that lives on small, fast-flowing rivers, mainly in the west of the country. It is one of only two UK damselflies with obviously coloured wings; the similar-looking Banded demoiselle, however, has distinctive dark patches on its wings. The Beautiful demoiselle is typically on the wing from May to August. It displays a flitting, fluttering flight, which the male uses to attract a female.

How to identify

Male Beautiful demoiselles have dark-coloured wings and metallic blue-green bodies; females have brown wings and green bodies. The Beautiful demoiselle is similar to the Banded Demoiselle, but the males of the latter species have distinctive dark patches in the middle of their wings.

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